Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day [CC] | VEDA

By: Alexandria Taylor

Hi, happy Monday! So I've just kind of accepted at this point that this year's VEDA I'm going to be chatting about some more serious topics, and not a light-hearted kind of jazz. As you can tell by the title this is going to be a combination of two different types of things: one today on Monday the 10th, is Youth HIV / AIDS awareness day, it is also in April STI Awareness Month, so I figured I would just combine those things together. STIs were not something that were discussed in my education enough, or barely at all, even going into my adolescence and like adulthood as well, which is wild because sexually transmitted infections are common and something that folks should definitely have access to education with. When it was discussed especially in like, my early childhood ,like doing my public education experience it was always done so through a very shaming kind of lens, one of my most prominent memories, something that I remember from my 7th grade health class that like will stick with me probably forever was we had a high school group come into our class, I think it was called STARS, they led this sort of workshop for us very young, very impressionable seventh graders, and one of the activities that they did to illustrate the transmission and spread of STIs was through this Oreo activity, and y'all just thinking about it like gives me anxiety. We all had cups of water, we all had like one Oreo, and the way that they showcased this was like, one person was supposed to eat their Oreo and like spit some of it into their water or something, or like put their back wash in there um, and then they did something with the water with all of us to like show that, and it just the idea of making it feel dirty and it was so gross, absolutely not okay. There is definitely a common perception that folks with any sort of STI are labeled as like "dirty" or even like "unclean" people, and that that boggles my mind, I mean it's not surprising in our culture, even when I was working at SARVA at the University of Washington I don't remember there being a lot of education that helped me reform that narrative, which is wild because I was literally working in sex ed. When thinking about this narrative, especially the idea of like this Oreos activity and just the shaming lens of it is that is a horrible message to present to children, that if this is something that they are dealing with or that someone else that they are dealing with like they know is dealing with that, they are somehow like outcasts from society, that is not an inclusive and acceptable message. During my undergrad experience one of the folks who helped me understand and kind of rewrite that narrative in my mind was Ella Dawson because Ella discusses experiences with herpes I'm pretty sure, there are so many like TED talks and and videos that I found personally very helpful for me.

The education that I received in school that was very like, health class only and very factual, but even then like I use factual almost in like air quotes because I think that it all definitely has a bias as well, Ella for me kind of rewrote that narrative which I'm very appreciative to, and I will leave information down below for that, as well. Background about Youth HIV Awareness Day from the research that I did: it was created and started up by a group called Advocates for Youth in 2013. I was very aware of HIV being immunodeficiency virus and that AIDS is just like the last, and like final stage of that, I was aware of what that meant, but I growing up and even until I don't know, two weeks ago when I started thinking about this day, was only focusing on adults who experienced this the idea of children having HIV AIDS was something that I understood in like, the like distant picture, like the bigger picture, but not something that was very personal to me especially because one of the statistics that they did provide was that in the US specifically, 40 % of the newer cases are young adults, and so when they say that, they're meaning 13 to 29, so like that spectrum. One of the things though that I did forget when I was working on this was some of the like, initial symptoms of HIV, some of the initial ones mimic flu symptoms, which is wild. When I'm thinking about like youths dealing with this and like younger folks dealing with this because I mean just from the people that I know and for myself included, when I start getting flu like symptoms I usually ignore them, especially because I mean given responsibilities right, so if you're working if you have school, if you have a family, if you do not have access to health care, it's going to lead to diminishing your experiences and not taking into account what you're really going through moving forward, not only as an individual in this world, but also as someone going into education and someone who would love to get back into educating about sex. This topic is something that I think I'm actually quite passionate about, but also I think that this is directly important as well for LGBTQ+ folks, so understanding that when I was looking at some of the statistics that there was a lot of like FAQs about where those kinds of dynamics come into play when it's not just a heteronormative relationship right, and that makes me so sad because it means that these adolescents are not getting education that they need, they're not getting their questions answered, and especially when that comes to any sexual activity that they may engage in those risky behaviors can lead to STIs as well, and then if they are like most people that I know and diminish their experiences, it could become more of an issue because they're not recognizing you know what's going on in their body because they didn't get the education about it. Health is not what I'm going to be endorsed in even though I would love for that, but just being able to create dialogues about it in my classroom that are not shaming, and have the right information it's going to be super important. Maybe one of these days I will have a little bit more of a carefree topic, but until then I will check back with you tomorrow, bye.

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